Friday, June 20, 2014

Sins of omission

Arminians like Roger Olson place enormous stock in the distinction between God allowing an evil to occur, and God intending, causing, determining, and/or rendering it certain to occur. Let's consider two hypothetical examples to illustrate the alleged distinction:

1) I have a one-year-old child. I hold him underwater in the bathtub until he drowns.  
2) I'm sitting on my chaise lounge in my backyard patio. I watch my one-year-old child fall into the swimming pool. I know he can't swim. I sit there sipping lemonade while he drowns.

i) I assume Arminians would classify (1) as murder. What about (2)?

ii) I didn't create the circumstances leading up to my one-year-old falling into the pool. I didn't anticipate his falling into the pool. I didn't push him into the pool. And I didn't cause his lungs to fill with water. 

So, by Arminian logic, I didn't murder him. Indeed, by Arminian logic, I'm not even culpable for his death.

iii) Some philosophers would say that by my failure to interrupt that chain-of-events, I did cause his death. 

But even if I didn't technically cause his death, how is that distinction exculpatory? 

iv) It could also be argued that by my failure to interrupt that chain-of-events, I rendered the fatal outcome certain. All I had to do was do nothing to ensure the outcome.

v) But suppose it wasn't quite a sure thing. Suppose there was a chance my one-year-old would find a way to climb out at the last minute. If I wait and see whether or not he will drown, does that let me off the hook, so long as his drowning was not inevitable?

vi) Since his death by drowning is a foreseeable consequence of my inaction, did I not intend the outcome? 

vii) Keep in mind that in a classical Arminian model of divine creation and providence, God is far more involved than (2). So (2) is a limiting case. 

1 comment:

  1. Lets add in the doctrine of concurrence which Arminians like William Lane Craig hold to.

    In this case, the infant is just learning to walk. He can move his legs in the correct manner, but he can't balance himself and doesn't have the leg muscle to walk more than a step by himself. But if the father allows the infant to grasp his hands, he can walk around choosing where to go. All the father is doing is providing the strength and balance for the child to go wherever she wants.

    The child starts walking towards the pool. The father knows that the child is walking towards the pool and will fall in. The father doesn't remove his aid to the child and the child falls in and drowns.

    If Arminians were consistent with their moral intuition type objections against Calvinism, they'd be atheists or Open Theists.